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International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and particularly the relationship between the IFIs and the United States.
Scott Morris is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development and director of the US Development Policy Initiative. In addition to managing the center’s work on US development policy, his research addresses development finance issues, debt policy, governance issues at international financial institutions like the World Bank and IMF, and China’s role as a development actor.
Morris served as deputy assistant secretary for development finance and debt at the US Treasury Department during the first term of the Obama Administration. In that capacity, he led US engagement with the multilateral development bank, as well as US participation in the Paris Club of official creditors. He also represented the US government in the G-20’s Development Working Group and was the Treasury’s “+1” on the board of the Millennium Challenge Corporation. During his time at Treasury, Morris led negotiations for four general capital increases at the multilateral development banks and replenishments of the International Development Association (IDA), Asian Development Fund, and African Development Fund.
Morris was a senior staff member on the Financial Services Committee in the US House of Representatives, where he was responsible for the Committee’s international policy issues, including the Foreign Investment and National Security Act of 2007 (the landmark reform of the CFIUS process), as well multiple reauthorizations of the US Export-Import Bank charter and approval of a $108 billion financing agreement for the International Monetary Fund in 2009. Previously, Morris was a vice president at the Committee for Economic Development in Washington, DC.
With big cuts to US bilateral and multilateral assistance looming, the House Committee on Financial Services convened a hearing to investigate accountability and results at the World Bank. Scott Morris, CGD’s director of the US Development Policy initiative (DPI), was joined by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ Sasha Chavkin, CalTech’s Jean Ensminger, and BIC’s Elana Berger. It was a thoughtful conversation, with everyone on the panel agreeing that it is in the United States’ interest to continue engagement with the World Bank. Here are my main takeaways from the hearing.
Scott Morris testified before the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Monetary Policy and Trade at a hearing titled, “Examining Results and Accountability at the World Bank” on March 22, 2017. Morris’s testimony offered recommendations for Congress in effective oversight and influence at the World Bank, as well as discussing what US contributions to the institution deliver for US taxpayers.
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is the lead US development agency, managing roughly $20 billion in annual appropriations. The agency operates in over 120 countries, including the world’s poorest and most fragile. Its work spans a wide range of sectors, supporting humanitarian relief, economic growth, health, education, and more. USAID’s broad remit reflects the agency’s mission: “We partner to end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies while advancing our security and prosperity."
Treasury’s Office of International Affairs works with other federal agencies, foreign governments, and international financial institutions to strengthen the global economy and foster economic stability. The United States’ international engagement through Treasury supports our national economic and security interests by promoting strong economic governance abroad and bolstering financial sector stability in developing countries. Through Treasury, the United States exercises leadership in international financial institutions where it shapes the global economic and development agenda and leverages US government investments, while tackling poverty and other challenges around the world.
State Department guidance underscores the importance of its work in furthering development: “The surest path to creating more prosperous societies requires indigenous political will; responsive, effective, accountable, and transparent governance; and broad-based, inclusive economic growth. Without this enabling environment, sustained development progress often remains out of reach.”
So it turns out the “skinny budget” released by the White House is really just a press release—a sprinkling of numbers amidst a lot of assertion and characterization of the real budget that is yet to come. When it comes to foreign assistance, the skinny budget doesn’t quite know what it wants to be, with statements that are both confused and confusing.
Following last week’s dramatic joint announcement out of Washington and Havana, many doors are likely to open for Cuba. One priority for the Cuban government should be membership in the multilateral development banks (MDBs).
When President Takehiko Nakao of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) visited CGD earlier last year, he described management’s groundbreaking proposal for a major restructuring of the bank’s financial model that we view as both sensible and creative.
When White House officials decided to talk publicly about a big boost in defense spending and big cuts for EPA, the State Department, and foreign assistance while still deep in their internal negotiation process, they did so for political reasons, making a direct case to voters devoid of any clearly stated policy rationale. It’s been encouraging, and even a little bit surprising, to see strong and quick statements of opposition coming from key Republicans in the Senate and House as well as the military community. But the reality remains that the White House has decided to politicize foreign assistance in a way that we have not seen for over 30 years.
Clare Walsh, a senior official in the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the chair of the Development Working Group of the G-20, recently visited CGD for a round-table discussion with CGD senior staff. Afterwards I hosted her and CGD senior associate, Scott Morris, a former senior US Treasury official, on the Wonkcast.
Last year, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) management proposed a major financial restructuring that would increase the amount of bank capital available for investment. This proposal offers many benefits in and of itself. But it also creates an opening for additional and complementary changes in governance that would greatly strengthen the bank and would ensure all of the benefits of the restructuring are fully captured. The merger proposal represents a highly credible down payment by the ADB on a set of innovations that can greatly expand the institution’s ability to respond to the region’s needs and opportunities—and in the process, stimulate similar dynamics at other MDBs.
As the World Bank makes a case to its shareholders for a capital increase this year, they are grappling with an uncomfortable truth: one of their biggest borrowers, China, happens to hold the world’s largest foreign exchange reserves, is one of the largest recipients of foreign direct investment, enjoys some of the best borrowing terms of any sovereign borrower, and is itself the world’s largest sovereign lender.